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Amid Shrinking Budgets, Forever 21 Just Keeps Getting Bigger

By Published on .

You might say that the David has become a Goliath.

For a privately held fast-fashion retailer that after 27 years in business is still run by its Korean-American founder, Do Wan Chang, Forever 21 has been behaving a lot like a big-box giant.

While many stores struggled to stay afloat during a recession that walloped consumer spending, Forever 21 pushed forward aggressively, opening ever-bigger locations and in many cases moving into space vacated by bankrupt businesses. Some Forever 21 shops, at 90,000 square feet or more, now rival a Kohl's or Target in size.

"Many of [Forever 21] locations look and feel like flagship stores," observed Marshal Cohen, chief retail analyst with NPD Group. "Every shopper feels like it's a great experience for them."

The extra square footage is critical, as it allows Forever 21 to build out its sub-brands, including 21 Men, Love 21 Maternity and Forever 21+ -- for large sizes -- and create stores-within-a-store. In addition to offering a steady supply of trendy fashions and prom dresses, the chain is positioning itself to cater to a broader demographic.

For its marketing activities, Forever 21 works with Minneapolis-based space150, which this year made Ad Age 's annual list of top small agencies.

Space150 reports to Senior Marketing Manager Linda Chang. Mr. Chang's daughter has led an era of experimentation in the way Forever 21 connects with its shoppers, whether through an augmented reality billboard in Times Square or a holographic fashion show.

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